A Full-Course Meal
Not everyone can be a millionaire celebrity chef.
It was that realization that set David Lanci, EMBA ’02, on his current path.
He’d been working as a chef for years, but, tired of the grind and eager to have a better work/life balance, he shifted into the food services industry. After getting some experience under his belt, he founded his own company, NexDine, which provides catering and dining services to corporations, schools, colleges, and senior living facilities around the country.
Lanci has always been a foodie. He grew up in a family where cooking was central to everything. He attended the culinary institute Johnson & Wales. He’s been a sous chef, an executive chef, and a restaurant manager. For a brief time, he even sold software to restaurants.
But he credits his Suffolk EMBA for giving him the self-assurance to make the move into the food business.
“Food is almost the easy part. It’s just as challenging—if not more so—to manage people, manage clients, manage budgets. ...We can’t do everything the same way for every client. Every location is different. People’s appetites are different.” —David Lanci
“I knew I needed more business education,” says Lanci. “What I learned at Suffolk and from my EMBA cohort really gave me the confidence to go out and start this company.”
Not Just What’s on the Plate
Over the years, Lanci has learned that food is only the first challenge when you’re in the culinary business. It’s one thing to be able to make a perfect Baked Alaska. It’s another to make all the right decisions that go into running the restaurant that serves the Baked Alaska.
“Food is almost the easy part,” says Lanci. “It’s just as challenging—if not more so—to manage people, manage clients, manage budgets. And in our industry, we’re not making widgets. We can’t do everything the same way for every client. Every location is different. People’s appetites are different.”
Paying attention to all those different needs is a dynamic he learned from his cohort at Suffolk.
“I realized that how you communicate with the people in the group has a dramatic impact on the outcome,” says Lanci. “I realized it wasn’t just out of sheer will you could get something done. You had to collaborate, and that was the aha moment for me.”
Another challenge in today’s food service industry: Clients want more than just a hot meal.
“Clients don’t do business with us because our chicken is better,” says Lanci. “They choose us because of the experience we can create for their constituents.”
That means thinking about lighting and flooring. The servers. The uniforms. Marketing. Nutrition. Everything becomes part of that experience equation, which was one of Lanci’s big takeaways from Suffolk.
“One thing I really learned from my EMBA is to take a holistic view of everything and never have a singular view,” he says. “It’s not just about what’s on the plate.”